Wilbur (one of the chinchillas) is sick, and all I hear in my head is “Attachment creates suffering.” While I know it’s true, it kind of pisses me off in this case because how can you NOT be attached to a pet? There are times when it totally sucks to have “heightened awareness” or whatever name you want to slap on it because it’s like living a duality where logic fights emotion and your brain is just miserable in the crossfire.
I accept that I will outlive my pets and death is part of having pets, but it’s much easier to accept death when it comes due to old age, or something that’s out of your control (like a disease). When your own decisions decide the fate of an innocent animal, there’s a lot of potential for guilt. And one of my annoying faults is that I’m really good at feeling guilty.
Wednesday night when I fed the chins, I noticed Wilbur (same chinnie that escaped in the hotel room) hadn’t eaten much the day before, and there was less poop than normal going on. Not eating is bad. Not pooping is worse. I took him to the vet on Thursday and the vet said he was bloated and might have a blockage in his intestines. He gave Wil an injection of fluids to avoid dehydration, and some oral medicine that was supposed to get his gut tract working again. Chinnie digestive systems need to keep moving, like a fish needs to swim to stay alive.
Friday there was very little poop and no eating at all, but Wilbur was still alert and obviously mentally there. I took him in for another fluid injection, and asked the Vet if he thought there was any hope of Wil making it through this or if I should put him down now. I wasn’t trying to jump the gun, I just didn’t want Wil to suffer and I knew what his odds were. I was trying to be realistic and not let my emotions govern my actions.
Vet said there wasn’t a lot of hope, but that he’d give it one more day to turn around. We discussed Xrays and surgery options, but Vet emphasized that the results were probably not going to be worth the cost; meaning I could rack up a huge debt and Wilbur still had very slim chances of survival.
So now my brain is firing at me: What price, Life?
I had my doubts about the cost vs. benefits scenario, but decided to take his advice – again, trying to keep emotion out of it and be reasonable.
One more day meant Saturday tho, which translates to short hours at the vet office, and no vet at all on Sunday, which was risky. I agreed anyway and paid the bill, effectively emptying my bank account of everything I had for the next two weeks. Fine. I can eat Ramen noodles like a college kid. Just fix my chinchilla.
Friday night I did a lot of research online and found one thing the vet hadn’t suggested: you can give chinnies an over-the-counter pediatric remedy to alleviate gas in their system. I ran out to CVS at midnight to get that and gave some to Wil. He looked a little better Saturday morning. He hopped away from me when I opened the door, there were a few tiny poops in the cage, and he had peed. The vet closed at noon so I had to make a decision – being optimistic, I decided to continue giving him the meds and try to make it to Monday.
Of course, as soon as the vet is absolutely no longer available, that’s when they take a nose dive. I don't know what made me think this time would be different. Wilbur’s stomach felt like a balloon Saturday night and this morning when I picked him up he was shaking – probably from pain. Now I’m thinking I made a bad decision and I feel AWFUL and helpless that he’s forced to endure this.
I called California Vet Services, the place every vet office within 20 miles of here refers you to for emergencies, and they want over $200 to let him out of his misery, mostly because they insist he has to have an exam since he’s never been there before, and of course that fee is elevated because it’s a Sunday. I’m like “HE’S DYING. I don’t need a vet to tell me that, I need someone to help this animal out of his pain as soon as possible.” They don’t give a shit. They just want their money.
So I called an emergecy clinic in Temecula, which is about 30 minutes north of here instead. That clinic is more reasonable in price, but they want it up front and I’ve got nothing in the bank.
SERIOUSLY, who is in it for the money, and who is in it to help a fucking animal in pain? I’m astounded at people’s dedication to rules in place of their HUMAN DECENCY.
I called the humane society and could only find recorded messages that all the staff was busy helping other people.
I called ChinWorld to enlist their help since they have a large herd and are on personal terms with their vet and they are extremely nice people. As the Universe would have it, the vet is not answering his cell phone. I wait. He finally calls a couple hours later, but he can’t offer much help or advice.
What really gets me is from everything I’ve read, bloat should be fixable. If it’s impaction (a blockage) there should be surgery that can be done to remove the problem. I’m not sure why my vet was so reluctant to follow the surgery route other than the cost, and then, again… why is cost an issue? If I’m willing to work out payments, even if it’s stupid of me to do, why would you advise against doing everything you can to help this animal live? Would he have said the same if it was a dog? Frustrating thoughts – all of them.
It is not my vet’s fault that Wilbur is in pain and dying though. I finally decide something has to be done NOW, no matter the cost, so I pack Wil up in the car and head to the Temecula emergency place.
I’m headed up the 15 at 90 MPH and I cannot EVEN believe that of ALL the fucking times for the Border Patrol to be stopping cars, here they are with four lanes of red lights across the highway. God had some mercy left though because just as I rolled up to the stopped cars, they turned all the lights green again.
It’s about this time that Wilbur starts bubbling up fluid from his nose and making horrible choking noises. Every gasp is wringing my heart out and I swear to fucking God I will never again a) NOT insist on an XRay, and b) let them talk me out of things because of cost.
I get to the clinic and have to enlist the help of a very sympathetic, loud Mexican woman to get a receptionist to come out front. Then they want me to fill out paperwork. Wilbur is obviously in HUGE distress at this point and I am trying to write legibly through my tears and begging them to PLEASE just take him in the back and do the deed – they can have my entire wallet and I promise not to sue them because the paperwork wasn’t finished when he died. She looks in the cage and finally says “just sign the bottom” and off he went.
It is definitely the most dramatic and upsetting exit any of my animals have made. I sat in the Jeep in the parking lot and cried for 30 minutes, then talked to Mark for another 30 minutes before I felt like I could drive safely. I’ve got an enormous headache, and it was a very shitty ending to a very shitty weekend.
On the way home it occurred to me that I should’ve asked for his body back so my vet could do a necropsy and figure out what happened. I called a friend that works at a vet’s office and asked her if it was worth going back for and she said probably not because the tissues deteriorate too fast. I did call the emergency place when I got home though and discussed the whole thing with the on-call vet (much more calmly) to try to find out what she thought it was. She thought heart failure with fluid on the lungs. Apparently the amount of fluids that came out in the end would indicate such a thing.
I can at least take that info back to my vet tomorrow and see what he thinks. Maybe we can piece it together, maybe not.
I sure do miss Wil, and I hate the way he went. He was 7 years old. At least his last 5 ½ years were spent in total pampering. And I’ve tried to focus on being thankful that I still have three healthy chinnies, and a healthy iguana, and a gecko that’s almost 16 years old. It’s just so damn hard when they leave. It doesn’t matter how many you have, and how many times you go through it, it never gets easier.
Goodnight my freckled-y eared boy. I hope Earl and Zeus met you on the other side. I sure am glad you don’t have any more pain and you’re completely perfect once again.